Wednesday, April 25, 2018

YouTube Review Takeover

Social media has taken over our social lives. Has it taken over how we view products as well?  ♦ 
In 2009, I discovered the video-sharing website YouTube. The first video I ever watched consisted of a young girl named Blair Fowler, sitting on her bubblegum-pink bedroom floor, showing me how to spray Herbal Essences “Totally Twisted Curl Scrunching Gel” into my hair and scrunch it to give the illusion that I just went to the beach. She showed me the bottle, explained what it was, how much it cost, where to buy it, and the pros and cons. (Of course I bought it and soaked my hair in it for probably a year straight.) The video now has over two million views on YouTube, which is right in the average ballpark for successful review videos on YouTube. This was my first experience consuming a review of a beauty product, and naturally, I figured that this is how all products were reviewed and popularized.
    Nonetheless, my mom’s fascination and lack of knowledge about this mysterious video-sharing platform proved me wrong. She wanted to show me the way she found information about different products, so she brought out her favorite magazines. My mom showed me articles about the newest makeup, hair, and skin products. Soon enough, I realized magazines were the original review-sharing platform, not just for beauty products, but for clothes, food, gadgets, everything. Still, I found all these same types of reviews on YouTube and was able to see a plethora of different opinions and thoughts. These videos allowed me to gather my own feelings. When the new iPhone came out, I found reviews on YouTube the moment it was released. When I wanted to try a new lip gloss, I was able to find hundreds of suggestions from people who showed me exactly what I would be buying. I respected my mom’s way of gathering reviews, but nothing would replace the experience I had found through my favorite YouTube reviewers.
    Some YouTube stars (“YouTubers,” as they are referred to) have risen to such a high level of status and credibility in the “beauty world” that they are able to sustain a highly comfortable lifestyle, just with the commission they receive from their videos. Along with YouTube paychecks, many have been rewarded with a spot on PR lists of some of the top beauty brands in the world. Not only does this mean that they’re getting the products for free, but they are also getting them as soon as they come out, or often times, a few weeks before they launch to the public.
    Take, for example, Tati Westbrook, self-proclaimed “glam life guru.” Tati has just under four million subscribers on her YouTube channel, consisting primarily of beauty reviews. Her most viewed video, titled “DRUGSTORE MAKEUP Favorites & Hate it’s,” has accumulated just over four million views. Even some of her oldest beauty videos, from over six years ago, have hundreds of thousands of views. Nowadays, Tati is going on tropical vacations, hosted and paid for by different brands like Smashbox and Benefit Cosmetics. She even has a video series on her YouTube channel where she tries out the most expensive makeup and skincare she can find, and happily purchases it with her own money.
    Tati, like many other renowned YouTubers, has created a community and audience that is loyal to her channel, helping her grow and create more and more content. The speed at which these reviews are able to be created and published is incomparable to the time it takes to produce a magazine issue. YouTube reviews are better for the brands, because they can reach very specific audiences that are guaranteed to be interested in their product. They’re better for the customer, because we get instantaneous information and visuals about any product we want.
    Taking into account all these aspects of what makes YouTube so popular, it can be boiled down to platform and medium. Kids are growing up with computers, iPads, and TV screens at their reach in everyday life. When my mom was growing up, however, there was no such thing as YouTube, let alone iPhones, laptops, and tablet devices. Of course, she chose to read magazines for reviews, because that’s all there was. As simple as it may sound, YouTube reviews are so mainstream and popular, simply because they cater to the generations raised in the world of internet and electronic devices. As long as you’re in an internet-accessible area, you can find reviews on anything at anytime. It seems like the perfect platform to find reviews, but there are, as in any internet phenomenon, flaws.
    The one major con to this YouTube takeover is the presence of sponsorships, meaning YouTubers are being paid to say positive things about a brand. A few years ago, when sponsorships began to arise on the YouTube landscape, no one was required to specify whether or not their review was sponsored by the company or not. This became problematic for viewers, creating a confliction of wanting to trust these reviews, but not knowing if they’re doing it just for the money. The more suspected sponsorships a YouTuber partook in, the less credible they became to their audience.
    However, now that YouTube requires creators to clarify whether or not their reviews are sponsored, there is a strong level of trust and understanding that has, once again, allowed the site to continue on as the primary platform for reviews. Furthermore, YouTubers also have the power to turn down a sponsorship if they do not believe in the quality of the product. By announcing to their audience, that they turned down money in order to stay truthful and honest in their reviews, YouTubers now have more credibility than ever.
    Overall, with videos getting millions of views each day and YouTubers working directly with prestigious brands at an unbeatable abundance and speed, YouTube has completely taken over the original paper review. Younger generations expect internet-based content, and YouTube provides exactly what they need. People no longer have the patience to wait a month to see what few products a magazine might recommend, when they can get hundreds of opinions on a product before it even launches. I understand that, for my mom, reading magazines brings a sense of comfort and ease, and power to her! As for me, I think I’ll be watching YouTube videos until there are none left to watch.
  • About the Author
    Ellie Livingston is a junior at Miami University, studying Creative Writing with a separate focus in Media Communications. Her passions include the beauty and skincare industry, as well as her chocolate lab puppy, Leonardo, and her handsome cat, Fitzgerald. She is planning to live in New York City after college, hopefully with a kitten of her own.

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